1913: “A Frenzy of Enthusiasm” — Good Roads Advocates Meet in Washington, D.C.

March 6, 1913

A large number of highway officials and supporters from all of the states showed up at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington, D.C., for the Second National Good Roads Federal-Aid Convention. This heavily attended conference was held under the auspices of the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Laurens Enos, the president of AAA, opened the proceedings that morning. For most of the remainder of the day, those in attendance had the opportunity to hear several speakers talk about the need for federal funding to help maintain and build the nation’s roads. These speakers included Logan Waller Page, director of the U.S. Office of Public Roads; M. de Pulligny, the chief engineer of roads and bridges in France; New York congressmen Peter G. Ten Eyck and J.A. Goulden; and C. Gordon Reel, the Empire State’s superintendent of highways. 

The speaker who evidently stole the show, however, was Congressman William Borland of Missouri. This Democratic lawmaker used his time at the podium to stress how the need for good roads nationwide was the most important issue facing the American people, and in the process he stirred those in attendance into what one newspaper account called “a frenzy of enthusiasm.” In another activity stemming from the convention, many of the attendees went to the White House and met there with President Woodrow Wilson.

Less than two years after the Second National Good Roads Federal-Aid Convention took place, a group of state highway engineers met at the same hotel. At that December 1914 meeting, the American Association of State Highway Officials was formally established to further pave a route for increased federal aid for road-building efforts.

(The above photo of the Raleigh Hotel was taken in 1920.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Additional information on the Second National Good Roads Federal-Aid Convention is available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwayhistory/landmark.pdf

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